a review of Keven Dooley's novels, The Angira Legacy and the Catalyst.
by Ruth Latta
Too often, the public assumes that older writers cannot draw upon their imaginations, but can write memoirs only. That stereotype is dispelled by Ottawa author Kevin Dooley's latest work of fiction. The Irish-born author, formerly a machinist and marine engineer, has just published The Angira Legacy and The Catalyst (Ottawa, Baico, 2010, $22.95, ISBN 978-1-926596-80-8) These novellas, published in one book, are the last two parts of his Angira Trilogy. These are works of speculative fiction reminiscent of the Da Vinci Code in that they show international machinations affecting the lives of ordinary individuals.
Dooley's first work of fiction was By the Hob (2005). The Other Man (2007), the first book in the Angira Trilogy, centred on two main characters. Colm Dunne, a returned soldier in rehabilitation for a head injury and post-traumatic stress disorder, attends a military dinner and notices a picture on the wall of a man who looks like him. This man was Marteen Reade, an Irish-Canadian veteran of North American frontier wars, the Boer War, and the First World War. The manuscript Reade left behind recounted his experiences and his knowledge of the larger elements at the root of these wars.
Many of us watch the news and speculate as to which countries and economic systems will rise to world power. In The Angira Legacy, Dooley depicts a future world in which the United States of America has lost its supremacy. The ascendant power is the USE, the "United States of Europe", a political as well as economic union in which the former imperial power, "Britannia", plays a key role. "Kanata", a northern country in North America acts as go-between with regard to the USA and the USE. The USE needs a new safe banking haven and a secret military base/strategic centre.
As The Angira Legacy begins, a Montrealer, Patrick McKee, newly back from the Caribbean, inherits a legacy from his great grandmother on the completion of his Ph.D. in Psychology, specializing in post traumatic stress disorder. The late Rosaleen McKee, a business woman who came of age during the Great War, left a letter asking the descendant who fulfilled the terms of her will to erect a memorial to her and to Patrick and Marteen Reade on Angira, an island off the coast of "Hibernia."
Angira, rich in mineral resources, has underground tunnels. Most of its inhabitants adhere to a woman-centred secret earth religion. Its distinctive culture and gene pool have earned it the status of a world heritage site. In a novel full of troubled, driven, duplicitous characters, the people who are easiest to warm to are the inhabitants of Angira. But a fabulously wealthy man from "Britannia", who travels around in his own ship with secret rooms, is bent on getting Angira's heritage status removed and using the island for his own purposes.
Colm Dunne, drawn to "Hibernia" in the hope of reuniting with his wife and children, unites with Patrick McKee and others in the struggle to control Angira's future. In the process he learns the connection between Marteen Reade and himself. Early on, readers may think that McKee was in the Caribbean for a holiday, and that Reuben, whom he met there, is just a friend, but it is not that simple.
The Catalyst, the third part of this futuristic volume, is a first person narrative which flows well. A ship's purser working for a "Britannia" based shipping line takes us to South Africa during the apartheid era and eventually links with the Angira plot.
Kevin Dooley's biography should inspire budding writers of any age. His formal education ended at age 15. His career as a marine engineer, while it took him all over the world and provided him with a wealth of experience, was nevertheless technical in nature, quite different from the craft of writing. Dooley's personal story shows that extensive reading, a gift for language, and determination can produce a writer.